Book 6, Chapter 34

Gift

A young enclave centaur was trotting along the dark wilderness, surveying the lands on high alert with two human corpses slung across his back. One of the bodies was missing two legs, which had likely ended up in the centaur’s stomach.

The centaur had been tracking down a human expert for more than ten days now, and was quite sure that she couldn’t have made it back to the City of the Unsetting Sun yet. However, there were no traces of her to be found.

He raised his head and looked into the horizon, seeing the city that was now only three days away. This was approaching the territory of the city itself, making it likely for him to encounter human saints, but he wasn’t afraid at all. In fact, he was excited about the opportunity to capture more prey.

The centaur’s gaze suddenly landed on some rubble on the ground, and looking at the pattern he bent closer to inspect the stones. They looked no different from anything else at first glance, but they were actually a method of communication used by those of Daxdus. The relative patterns of the stones spelt out words to sentences and sometimes even paragraphs of information.

As he was busy deciphering the message within the stones, a gentle voice suddenly rang out by his side, “Whatchu looking at?”

“GRR!” Although he couldn’t understand the words, the centaur could recognise Norlandic immediately. He whipped around to find a young Norlander standing a few metres away, also staring at the stones.

The Daxdian grasped his weapon tightly, but hesitated to attack. This youth seemed like a frail mage from his presence and robes, almost as though he could be cut apart by any casual swing of the spear, but intuition was screaming that this was a dangerous opponent. After all, how could a weak Norlander come so close without even being found out? If he’d just decided to stab a blade in instead of speaking…

Seeing the centaur’s confused expression, Richard quickly realised his mistake; not everyone from Daxdus knew Norlandic, just as he didn’t know the language of the Daxdians. Normally he would cast a spell that helped with this understanding, but that required more time than this encounter would allow. He thus tore apart a small scroll that granted the effect immediately, speaking once more in the centaur’s language, “What’s written on the stones?”

“Why would I tell you?!” the centaur growled in rage.

“Tch, and here I was not wanting to kill boys. You’ve wasted one of my scrolls, you better make it worth it.”

The centaur didn’t utter a word, simply twirling his spear around and ramming it right towards Richard’s forehead. The dense weapon was extremely heavy, weighing more than a tonne at minimum. Even if it landed straight on the ground, just the shockwaves from the attack would be terrifying. The centaur was clearly going all-out from the very beginning, even using the power of its bloodline to maximise its strength.

Richard’s body started emitting dazzling sparks, a few balls of lightning even circling around him as Carnage flashed out of the sword case. He brought the blade forward to meet the spear head-on, the collision so fierce that blood started flowing from his mouth, but he just grunted in satisfaction. He had been able to block the mountainous attack in terms of pure strength!

He smirked and continued to pour mana into the rune, using the increased might to push the spear away. He then scoffed at the centaur who almost lost all control in shock.

Enclave centaurs were naturally powerful creatures, and this youth was an exception even amongst his generation. This blow of his was equal to that of a powerful human saint, but Richard had managed to stave it off directly.

Richard mockingly hooked his index finger towards the centaur, “Come on, again!”

Even with the duration of the translation scroll having ended, the centaur could still understand the act of provocation. Seeing the blood leaking from the corners of Richard’s mouth, it rushed forward to fight once more. This cunning human was actually a warrior who’d disguised himself as a mage!

Richard matched spear with blade once again, but this time he moved to throw the centaur off balance, sending the strike to the earth. However, he didn’t take advantage of the opening and instead retreated a few steps, pulling open some distance as he buffed himself with a number of spells. A quick barrage of eight buffs left the centaur in awe.

“Again,” he waved his hand once more.

The centaur roared and galloped over, raining strikes down on Richard and even trying to stomp on him for good measure. However, Richard managed to dodge the attacks and manoeuvre freely, the blade in his hands still making a point to meet all strikes. With none of his attacks landing, the centaur was left with no way to attack this enemy. Even his second set of hands seemed to be of little use.

With the vicious offensive having failed, the centaur had no choice but to open up some distance to catch his breath. He panted heavily while glaring at Richard, the sweat drenching his long hair. A mere few minutes of battle had consumed half of his energy reserves, but Richard seemed just as calm as he did at the start.

However, Richard still didn’t press the issue. Waiting a few minutes for the centaur to recover, he then made another provocative gesture to have the centaur attack. The youth did rush and charge forward, but he suddenly felt like a fool. He was beginning to realise that he was being used as a practice dummy, and after this last clash he had lost all delusions of grandeur.

The centaur’s bloodshot eyes stared daggers at Richard, the hot breath released with every pant almost visible to the naked eye. When Richard motioned once more, he let out a bloodcurdling scream before turning around to flee.

Richard was surprised for a moment, but then he laughed and gave chase. Enclave centaurs were known for their speed in a sprint, but that could nowhere come close to matching a grand mage’s ability in a chase. Even better, his own sprint was faster. His dash left behind a trail of afterimages and electric fire as he caught up in less than a minute, parrying a final desperate attack to make his own.

Seeing his spear only pierce a shadow, the centaur slowly looked down at his chest. The armour there had been cut open, revealing a scar that was roughly a metre long. The wound was superficial as well, less than an inch deep, but for some reason that was not reassuring.

The centaur quickly found out why. The surface wounds suddenly burst open of its own accord, blood and flesh flowing out from within as his still-beating heart slipped out and fell to the ground. It took a few moments for him to realise just what it was, and by the time he did his eyes rolled back into their sockets.

Standing a dozen metres away, Richard saw the centaur fall to the ground and secretly sighed to himself. This was a decent opponent, and the fight had given him a better understanding of his upgraded rune. The modified Mana Armament’s output was far too high for him to control well right now, so he would need to change some of his tactics until he could adjust.

As he threw the centaur heart into his skaven-skin sack, he looked towards the City of the Unsetting Sun and found a demon in the distance. Looking at the ominous glint of its flail, he stretched a little before motioning for it to come over.

……

As he walked into the City of the Unsetting Sun, Richard found there were far fewer people than he was used to seeing within. The city had already been rather lonely at times before, but now it seemed absolutely desolate. He had heard during his time in the Fort of Dawn that he wasn’t the only one dissatisfied with Rundstedt’s ways, and that many independent saints had moved to the other fortresses the moment the war drew to a close. The Marshal himself was still fighting his case in the courts, the investigation destined to drag on even further.

Thankfully, the Millennial Empire had sent over another legend to help keep the city safe. Alongside Dreambreaker, this was enough in case of emergencies. Hasting was still present as well, but Richard had no interest in meeting him.

Lawrence’s little shop was the same as before, not a single customer in sight. That being said, Richard had also never seen Lawrence actually selling anything before; the only people that came to the place were wounded and looking for treatment.

Hearing the familiar snore from the counter, Richard couldn’t help a small smile. The old man was just like before, smiling lewdly from some indecent dream. He leaned close to Lawrence’s ear, “Oi, wake up! I’m here to see you!”

“Wha? Who? Is your husband back? Damn, let me hide in the closet!” Lawrence jolted up and fell to the floor, still in half a daze.

Richard didn’t know whether to laugh or cry; this old pervert had clearly experienced his fair share of such encounters in the past. He eventually just sighed, picking Lawrence up by the scruff of his neck and putting him back on the chair.

Seeing who it was, Lawrence immediately calmed down a little and started cursing, “You little bastard, why did you have to break my beautiful dream? I’d just stripped Little Nancy naked!”

Nancy? Richard immediately recognised the name, recalling it as one of those on Lawrence’s list. This “little” Nancy was probably older than his grandmother.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA